THE country’s richest man, Henry Sy, Sen. Jose Victor “JV” Ejercito, Ilocos Sur Gov. Imee Marcos and hundreds of other rich Filipinos were in the list of people with offshore holdings exposed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).
Documents provided by Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca listed 572 Filipinos and “master clients” with offshore financial deals. The list included various companies and law offices.
With a net worth of $12.9 billion, Sy, 91, was named by Forbes magazine as the Philippines’ richest. His wife Felicidad, daughter Teresita and son Hans were also on the “Panama Papers” list.
Wealthy businessmen were also included, such as Andrew L. Tan, chairman of the board of Alliance Global Group that owns Megaworld and Emperador Distillery. Tan’s net worth was placed by Forbes at $5.1 billion.
Also on the list are Andrew Tan Gotianun Jr., chairman and president of Pacific Sugar Holdings and founder of Filinvest Group of companies, and Robert Coyiuto Jr., chairman of the Coyuito Group of Companies. Companies such as Holcim Philippines Inc., Megaworld Corp., Nickel Asia Corp., Panay Electric Co. Inc. and the Kapunan, Lotilla Garcia and Castillo law offices were also listed.
One of the biggest document leaks in history snared world leaders, celebrities and sports stars in a snowballing worldwide scandal over their secretive offshore financial dealings.
A year-long worldwide media investigation of a trove of 11.5 million documents, leaked from the Panama-based law firm with offices in 35 countries, exposed a tangle of confidential financial dealings by the elite, from aides of Russian President Vladimir Putin to relatives of Chinese President Xi Jinping, sports celebrities and screen stars.
The vast stash of records from Mossack Fonseca, the so-called Panama Papers, was obtained from an anonymous source by German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung and shared with more than 100 media groups by the ICIJ.
Offshore financial dealings are not illegal in themselves but may be abused to hide assets from tax authorities, launder the proceeds of criminal activities or conceal misappropriated or politically inconvenient wealth.
Several countries have launched tax evasion probes of the murky offshore financial dealings of a slew of politicians and celebrities.
Among others named in the “Panama Papers” are Iceland’s Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson and Barcelona striker Lionel Messi.
In Iceland’s capital Reykjavik, thousands took to the streets late Monday to demand the premier resign over allegations that he and his wife used an offshore firm to hide millions of dollars of investments.
Australia has already launched an inquiry into 800 wealthy Mossack Fonseca clients.
France and The Netherlands also announced investigations, while a judicial source said Spain had opened a money-laundering investigation of the law firm.
Panama also pledged to launch probe to identify if any crimes have been committed and any financial damages should be awarded.
President Juan Carlos Varela said Panama will cooperate with the international inquiries but also vowed to “defend the image of our country,” which has a reputation as a hub for under-the-table dealings.
Messi’s family was swift to dismiss any suggestion he had been involved in shady activity, saying “accusations he created a… tax evasion plot, including a network of money-laundering, are false and insulting.”
Messi has been charged with tax fraud in a separate case that is due to go to trial in Spain in May.
‘An attack on Panama’
The papers, from around 214,000 offshore entities covering almost 40 years, also name the president of Ukraine and the king of Saudi Arabia.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko denied any wrongdoing, but he may face an attempt to impeach him.
French newspaper Le Monde cited documents showing that Syria used Mossack Fonseca to create shell companies to help it break international sanctions and fund its war effort.
Pascal Saint-Amans, head of tax policy at the OECD, said the leaks showed Panama was among the world’s shadiest tax havens.
“Switzerland is really making progress, so there is a concentration of problems in Panama,” he noted, referring to another popular offshore tax haven.
More than 500 banks, their subsidiaries and branches have worked with Mossack Fonseca since the 1970s to help clients manage offshore companies.
UBS set up more than 1,100 and HSBC and its affiliates created more than 2,300.
The documents show “banks, law firms and other offshore players often fail to follow legal requirements to make sure clients are not involved in criminal enterprises, tax dodging or political corruption,” the ICIJ said.
Mossack Fonseca is already subject to investigations in Germany and Brazil, where it is part of a huge money-laundering probe that has threatened to topple the current government.